28 July, 2016

Shahi Paneer Recipe | Simple and Easy Restaurant Style Paneer Curry Recipes

Learn how to make Shahi Paneer ~ Indian cottage cheese in creamy tomato, almond and cashew nut gravy

India is the largest producer of milk and it is no surprise that we Indians love milk and milk produce. Starting our day with strong milky coffee or tea, we integrate milk and milk products in various recipes. It may even sound little strange when we say our meal is incomplete, especially for a South Indian, without a glass of yogurt or buttermilk, either mixed with rice and pickle at the end of a meal or spiced with few green chillies, cumin powder etc or sweetened with sugar. Milk, yogurt, buttermilk, ghee, butter and cream are part and parcel of Indian meals. And there is one more milk product which we all love and quite crazy about! It’s Paneer or Indian cottage cheese.

Paneer (pronounced pa-nir) is a fresh cheese used in Indian subcontinent for centuries. When I say cheese, it is acid-set, unsalted, non-melting firmer cheese. It is also a fresh cheese, meaning you can make it and eat it right away and it requires no aging or culturing. It required just 2 ingredients; milk (preferably full fat milk) and lemon juice or vinegar and is very easy to make at home by curdling heated milk with lemon juice or vinegar and the acidity in the lemon juice or vinegar causes the milk to separate into curds/milk solid and whey. The whey is separated with a help of a strainer lined with cheese cloth to collect the milk sold. This crumbly and moist form is called ‘Chhena’ and is used in making many sweets like rasgulla, ras malai, sandesh etc in Easten Indian and Bangladesh. When the chhena is pressed to remove excess water by pressing doen heavy object on top, we get the solid paneer block which is then cut into cubes and is ready for cooking straight away.

Paneer is a versatile and a very popular ingredient used mainly as a star ingredient for many North Indian curries. With its fairly mild, milky flavour and dense crumbly texture which doesn’t melt like other cheese, its best when paired with strong and spicy flavours like in classic Indian curries or dishes like Palak Paneer (spinach based curry), Achari Paneer (tomato base with Indian pickling spices), Matar Paneer (peas and tomato), Paneer Jalfrezi (tossed with bell pepper in lightly spiced tomato paste), Paneer Kurma (lightly spiced yogurt based dish), Kadai Paneer (whole spices and tomato paste), Paneer Kofta (deep fried paneer dumplings in creamy gravy), Paneer Tikka Masala (marinated paneer with vegetables) and many other Paneer curries. It also makes a wonderful filling for Samosa, Paratha and even can be mixed with dough to make extremely nutritious rotis.

My quest to learn more about the origin and history of Paneer left me wanting to know more about it. As per Wikipedia, the word “Paneer” is of Persian origin. The Turkish word peynir, the Persian, Armenian and the Azerbaijani word panir, all derived from ‘paneer’ referes to any type of cheese. However the origin of paneer is still debatable as Vedic Indian, Afghan-Iranian and Portuguese-Bengali origins have been proposed for paneer. The wiki further explains that the Vedic literature refers to a substance that is interpreted by some authors as a form of paneer. While according to Arthur Berriedale Keith, a Scottish constitutional lawyer, scholar of Sanskrit and Indologist, a kind of cheese is “perhaps referred to” in Rigveda, author Otto Schrader, a German philologist, believes that the Rigveda only mentions “a skin of sour milk, not cheese in the proper sense”. According to K.T. Acharya, an eminent food historian, the acidulation of milk was a taboo in the ancient Indo-Aryan culture, pointing to the legends about Lord Krishna make several references to milk, butter, ghee and yogurt, but do not mention sour milk cheese.

According to Wiki and Quora, based on the texts such as Charaka Samhita (Compendium of Caraka, an ancient Sanskrit text on Ayurveda), B. N Mathur wrote that the earliest evidence of a heat-acid coagulated milk product in India can be traced to 75-300 CE, in the Kushan-Satavahana era. Sunil Kumar etal. interpret this product as the present-day paneer. According to them, paneer is indigenous to north-western part of South Asia, and was introduced in India by Afghan and Iranian travellers in the 16th century and was made from goat or sheep rennet. These cheeses were the predecessors of modern paneer which requires no animal products, such as rennet, for coagulation making it one of the important sources of protein for lacto-vegetarians D.R. Ghodekar of India's National Dairy Research Institute also believed that paneer was introduced into India by Afghan and Iranian invaders. According to writers such as K.T. Achaya, Andrea S. Wiley and Pat Chapman, the Portuguese introduced the technique of "breaking" milk with acid to Bengal in the 17th century. Thus, Indian acid-set cheeses such as paneer and chhena were first prepared in Bengal, under Portuguese influence.

With such interesting history and packed with nutrition, Paneer is definitely one of the most popular ingredient in Indian cuisine, especially for lacto-vegetarians. Apart from many other curries mentioned above, there is one more dish that is quite popular in Indian restaurants often served with some type of Indian breads such as poori, naan, tandoori roti or rumali roti. The dish is called Shahi Paneer where the word ‘Shahi’ refers to royal in reference to the imperial court. The dish Shahi Paneer is made by cooking the fresh paneer in thick and creamy gravy of tomatoes, fresh cream, nuts and spices.

The first step in the preparation of Shahi Paneer is to make fresh paneer by adding an acidic liquid (I prefer lime juice to vinegar) to boiled hot milk. The chemical reaction causes the curds or the milk solid and whey to separate in a couple of minutes. This is then collected in sieve lined with cheese cloth to separate the whey from the curds and squeezed to remove as much moisture as possible before pressing it down under a weight for couple of hours to get a block of paneer which can be cut into cubes and used right away in curries. Don’t discard this whey as it contains very high nutrients and this liquid can be used to make dough or in soups or stews. If you are short of time and don’t have fresh homemade paneer, you can always use store brought one for convenience.

Once the paneer is ready, proceed to make the gravy base for the curry. Now there are two versions of this, one that uses tomatoes and the second without tomatoes. Personally I prefer tomatoes in gravy as they impart mellow sweet and sour when combined with other ingredients making the dish more flavoursome! To make the spice base, first the onions and tomatoes are lightly fried in little oil or ghee and then cooked with whole Kashmiri chillies and dry nuts in little water for couple of minutes. This is then ground to smooth paste to get the gravy base. Then we proceed to make the tadka of whole spices with ginger-garlic paste and tomato puree or paste before adding the ground nut paste. To this then we add fresh cream or if you want to reduce the calorie like me, add whisked full fat yogurt. This makes rich and velvety smooth base gravy truly fit for the royals. 

Finally the star ingredient of this dish paneer is added to the gravy and is simmered for couple of minutes so that the paneer absorbs the rich aroma and flavour of harmonious blend of spices. If using fresh paneer, just add the cubes directly to the gravy and if using store brought one, you can lightly pan fry the cubes with little oil or ghee until it turns golden brown on both sides. The whole cooking from start to end doesn’t take more than 40-45 minutes. Just make sure that your Indian pantry is nicely stocked with the spices and ingredients listed below in the recipe and you will end up cooking this Shahi Paneer again and again for your loved ones.

Shahi Paneer (Indian cottage cheese in creamy tomato, almond and cashew nut gravy)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30-35 mins
Spice Level: Low to Medium
Recipe Level: Easy/Beginner
Serves: 5-6 people
Shelf Life: Best served fresh but can be refrigerated for 2-3 days
Serving Suggestion: With any Indian flat breads (Whole Wheat Naan or Butter Naan or with any stuffed parathas) or plain/flavoured Basmati rice

200-250 gms Paneer, cut into 1 inch squares of 1 cm thickness
2 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
1 tbsp thick Tomato Paste or ¼ cup Tomato Puree
¾ cup thick Yogurt, whisked
Salt to taste
1 – 1½ tbsp. Oil or Ghee

For Almond-Cashew Nut Paste:
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
3 large or 4 medium Tomatoes, chopped
12 Almonds
12 Whole Cashew Nuts
3-4 Dry Kashmiri Chillies or Byadagi Chilli (Read notes)
½ tbsp. Oil or Ghee
2 tsp Sugar or Jaggery (I used jaggery which is unrefined cane sugar)

Spices Used:
1 inch Cinnamon or Cassia Stick
1 Bay Leaf
4 Cloves
4 Green Cardamoms
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi/Dry Fenugreek Leaves
½ tsp Garam Masala (Adjust as per taste)
½ tsp Kitchen King Masala (Optional, but recommended)

  1. Cut the paneer into cubes and keep them aside. If needed, you can pan fry the paneer pieces in little oil or ghee until it turns golden brown on both sides. Keep the fried paneer pieces in a bowl of hot water to keep them soft and crumbly.
  2. Chop the onion and tomatoes and make fresh ginger-garlic paste by crushing them with a help of a pestle and mortar.
Prepare the almond and cashew nuts paste:
  1. Heat ½ tbsp. of oil or ghee in a pan and add chopped onions, tomatoes and sugar or jaggery. Sauté them on medium flame for a minute. Mix in ¼ cup of water and bring the water to boil.
  2. To this add almonds, cashew nuts and Kashmiri chillies. Cover the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the flame and let the mixture cool down to room temperature before grinding it to smooth paste. Keep it aside until needed.
Proceed to cook:
  1. Heat 1-1½ tbsp. of oil or ghee in a pan and cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms and ay leaves. Stir fry for a minute before adding ginger-garlic paste and fry it until the raw smell disappears, about a minute or two.
  2. Mix in tomato puree or tomato pasted dissolved in 3 tbsp water and stir well. Cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Next add ground almond-cashew nut paste to the gravy and mix them well. Add half of kasuri methi crushed with fingers and salt to taste. Cook uncovered for 4-5 mins on medium flame.
  4. Remove the pan from heat and mix in whisked yogurt or fresh cream and stir well. Bring the pan back on heat and simmer the gravy for 4-5 minutes. Add about ½ cup or more of water if you find the gravy too thick to adjust the consistency. Add salt to taste and mix well.
  5. Next add the paneer, garam masala, kitchen king masala if using and remaining kasuri methi and let the gravy simmer for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the flame and let it rest for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
  6. Serve this delicious, velvety smooth Shahi Paneer with any Indian flat breads or flavoured basmati rice and enjoy!

Sia’s Notes:
  • If using fresh paneer, just add the cubes directly to the gravy and if using store brought one, you can lightly pan fry the cubes with little oil or ghee until it turns golden brown on both sides.
  • This is a mild curry as we are using Kashmiri chillies. If you prefer spicy curry, use hot chillies instead of Kashmiri chillies.

21 July, 2016

Food Bloggers Unite to Fry The Plagarists in Their Own Frying Pan!

The day started like any other day with me planning a photo shoot and then working on the recipe post. Well, not everything works according to plan and if it did, our life would have been a lot better and manageable! Just like the other day, my plans of posting a recipe today too has changed and it has to wait until I can compose my thoughts and words rush to my mind and flows to my fingertips which will then tap dance on the keyboard. Today, I have something else to talk about… It’s not about food, but about food blogs, food bloggers and our never ending fight against plagiarism and copyright infringement. 

“If you plagiarize others' techniques, you steal their emotions and tell your spectators a lie with your work. Works as such equal zero.”
~ Wu Guan-Zhong

There isn’t really a lot that I haven’t seen or experienced in the last 10 years of blogging where I worked hard to create fresh contents for my blog, but also made some wonderful friends, became a part of strong food blogger fraternity and bonded with complete strangers across the globe. This is the good bit about blogging. Now let’s talk about the not-so-good-things!

Being a food blogger, I am not new to plagiarism where contents from my blog are lifted blatantly without my permission. Some plagiarists are only interested in my food photographs, some really lazy ones like lift just the recipes verbatim and there are some who even go to the extent of copying my rants! Oh yes! People like these do exist! It’s not even a week when we collectively raised our voice against Hebbar’s Kitchen and now we have another plagiarist to deal with. This time it is an android app called “The Frying Pan” who scrapped contents from not one, not two, ~drum rolls~ more than two dozen food bloggers since I last checked! This is plagiarism and copyright infringement at worst and funnily, this is not the first app to have lifted contents from food bloggers and sadly, this won’t be the last!

“When you have wit of your own, it's a pleasure to credit other people for theirs.”
~ Criss Jami

The great minds at The Frying Pan think they are doing us the favour by scraping the contents from our blog!

Confused? Hold on…

They mentioned that their glorious “vision” of creating “outstanding food discovery platform” where users can search food recipes from the best bloggers in India. Their “interests” are completely aligned with the food blogging community!!!!

Still confused? Wait…

These great “visionaries” believe that by listing our recipes on their app, we the mere-good-for-nothing-food-bloggers can expect to gain from “incremental” mobile traffic being directed to our sad-little-websites and a “lot of appreciation” for our work!


According these “servitude” souls, they are doing us a great favour by listing our blogs on their app, we can also “gain” from events and other promotional campaigns that they will run around the blogger community. They also provide nutrition value and “other interesting features” about “our recipe” which make “our recipe appealing to users”. We are also “free to use this information”.

Bucket load of bull$hit ~ Checks her hand to see if she is holding begging bowl~

“Worse than not giving credit to the right person is only giving it to a wrong one and that’s being unfortunately done by most people too often.”
~ Anuj Somany

You know what I found most interesting? They NEVER approached me or many other bloggers asking if we are interested in collaborating with them. And as for the rest of of the food bloggers, who are also the victims of the plagiarism and/or copyright infringement, did receive emails/message from The Frying Pan team. Some replied to their email clearly stating they are not interested and some didn't due to time constraint or for whatever valid reason. Interestingly, The Frying Pan team still went ahead and scrapped contents from the bloggers who had refused to collaborate and also those who didn't respond to their emails! How difficult it is to understand 'no means no' or 'silence is not consent/agreement'?!! They ASSUMED we will be delighted with what they BELIEVE to be of great use to us! But the fact is we never agreed or are even interested! Here is the list of some of the food bloggers whom The Frying Pan team scrapped contents from.

Sia from Monsoon Spice / 166 recipes on the app
Deeba from Passionate About Baking / 115 recipes on the app 
Monika from Sin-A-Mon Tales / 145 recipes on the app  
Archana from Archana's Kitchen / 1200+ recipes on the app
Rekha from Foodolicious Pictured / 7 recipes on the app
Swasthi from Swasthi’s Recipes / 396 recipes on the app
Madhuri from MADaboutkitchen / 5 recipes on the app
Mallika from Quick Indian Cooking / 188 recipes on the app
Neha from Whiskaffair / 19 recipes on the app
Preeti from Indian Kitchen / 695 recipes on app
Dassana from Veg Recipes of India / 805 recipes on app
Madhuli from My Foodcourt / 9 recipes on the app
Anupama from Easy Bites Online / 77 recipes on the app
Sneh Roy from Cook Republic / 179 recipes on the app
Hari Chandana from Blend with Spices / 434 recipes on the app
Farrukh from Cubes N Juliennes and many many more!!!

Is it plain IGNORANCE that the food bloggers are always willing to join the bandwagon and easy to please with the key words like traffic, free goodies, event invitations or just ARROGANCE that they can get away by scrapping contents from blogger with ambiguous plagiarism and copyright law! I don’t know.

But what I know for sure that I, along with bunch of food bloggers, have decided to fight them in the court of law. As I type, our lawyers are working on the legal notice and shortly it will be slammed on their doors. Many have already filled and send DMCA notice to Google and hopefully, Google will have enough evidence to shut their app from their Google store. They have lifted 166 posts from my blog without my permission (which is equivalent to 35% of content which I have painfully worked hard to create in the last 10 years) and over 5000+ posts from other bloggers. Oh yes, they are literally frying our brain on their Frying Pan app!

“...a little of this, a little of that - a little of me, a little of you - put it together what do you have? postmodern soup...”
~ John Geddes

So what are my reasons for joining and supporting my food blogger friends around the globe? First, they didn't approach me and I had no idea such app existed which scrapped contents from my blog until someone blew the whistle on FB! Like me, many other bloggers were unaware of this app and those who knew were also in for shock to find their content on the app, FB, Instagram etc without their consent! Second, there was no written agreement or even oral agreement! Third, I hold copyright for all the contents on my blog and I have a page which clearly states no one can use contents from my blog in any form for publishing on other websites, mailing lists, commercial purposes or other media without explicit permission from me and modify, display, alter, distribute or build upon the content. Four, the team continue to lie through their teeth that what they are doing is ethical as they include the link back to original blogger posts! But the fact is the app opens our blog posts in their iframe which is not really directing traffic to our blog as they claim and is clear violation of copyright! {UPDATE: It was only today in an interview on Factor Daily by Shrabonti Bagchi that the co-founder Naveen Rathee agreed that "he accepts that the URLs in the app do not open in mobile browser windows but on an in-app browser, which means that the user remains within the walled garden of the app (news aggregators usually make sure that links open in media creators’ own websites, driving traffic)"). And last, plagiarism and copyright law may still in its infancy and what we call a 'grey area' but even a child knows it is not right to take things from others without asking! I stand with my blogger friends, even if contents from my blog were not scrapped! This is about ethics and principles! This is about what is right and what is wrong.

Now some of you must be thinking how can you help and support us? One, by not insulting our hard work and creativity by calling “imitation is the best form of compliment” and second by flagging their FB page by the name The Frying Pan and their app by the same name. Please note that you can view this app only on android devices. So if you don’t have any android device like me, you can beg and/or borrow, but please don’t steal from your friends and family. You can also help us by sharing this post on your timelines or even a word of mouth will do just fine! Just imagine the time, effort and hard work we can save to simply produce new contents for our blog and blog readers than dedicating it on fighting against bunch of theives every single instant this happens!

Support us, stand by us and please spread the message! Thank you all for patiently reading this. I promise that I will show my appreciation by working harder on creating new contents for my blog instead of fighting plagiarism every single day!

Author, admin and rambler at http://monsoonspice.com

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15 July, 2016

Mosaranna or Curd Rice Recipe | South Indian Tempered Yogurt Rice Recipe

Learn how to make Mosaranna or Mosaru Anna or Curd Rice ~ Popular South Indian rice mixed with creamy sweet yogurt, finely chopped vegetables and fruits tempered with green chillies, ginger and indian spices

~Long rant alert~

Let me warn you in the beginning. This is going to be one long rant. If you are here for the recipe, just skip it and scroll down to the recipe part.

Food blogging is 24/7 job, and mostly it is unpaid/low paid job. We food bloggers put hours and sometimes, days of work into creating every single blog post; recipe idea, back ground food/recipe research, recipe creation, recipe testing, re-testing 4-5 times, taking accurate measurement of the ingredients, jotting down tips/little useful notes, food styling, food photographing, editing the photographs, writing the blog post, crediting/mentioning the original source, editing and finally posting/publishing it. The work doesn’t end there! We also read patiently and reply to every single queries. Apart from labelled as food bloggers, most of us are the sole photographers, content creators, editors, cooks, cleaners, food stylists and also the dishwashers!

And there are some people who ‘research’ on Google and get ‘inspired’ by others write ups and recipes and simply ‘ctrl C + ctrl P’ not just the recipes, but also the stories/prologue to the recipe posts. I will not call them lazy. I will not even call them naïve. They are simply the plagiarists who ride high by stealing others content and passing them as their own and go another step by ‘copyright’ing the stolen content! What for? Fame? Money? Popularity? I don’t know! When my 6 year old knows what's right from wrong, I find it rather saddening to see a well-educated people who pretend to be ignorant and plays victim card, It clearly shows that education and ethics and values are two different things!

07 July, 2016

Vegan Spicy Tomato Chutney Recipe | Quick and Easy South Indian Tomato Chutney Recipe

Learn how to make Spicy Tomato Chutney ~ Vegan South Indian style tomato chutney with aromatic spices and garlic

I can’t believe how fast the days are zooming past. Was it just a week ago we celebrated LD’s 6th birthday?! Within a month’s time he will finish his year 1 and move to year 2 this fall! It is going to be painful and really difficult to say goodbye to the teachers and the teaching assistants who have helped him with the transition and made his first year in big school a memorable one.

With the summer holidays fast approaching, I’ve decided to make a little handmade and homemade gift for the most important people in LD’s school. This is our way of saying thank you. Among other, one thing I am going to include is a jar of Vegan Spicy Tomato Chutney. This is not just any tomato chutney; this is THE Tomato Chutney that has conquered my heart and taste buds!